In a New York “slip and fall” negligence case, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to him or her, proximately causing the damages for which he or she seeks monetary compensation. Because New York is a pure comparative negligence state, it is likely that the defendant in such a case will try to place as much fault as possible on the plaintiff. Under the doctrine of pure comparative fault, the plaintiff’s own fault will not bar recovery, but it will reduce the damages that are recoverable in proportion to the plaintiff’s own negligence.
In other words, if the jury finds that the plaintiff is entitled to $50,000 in monetary damages for his or her injuries suffered in a fall but determines that he or she was 50% at fault in the accident, the plaintiff will only receive $25,000.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed suit against the defendant landlord in the Supreme Court for Niagara County, asserting a cause of action for negligence. According to the plaintiff, she slipped and fell outside her apartment building due to ice that the defendant had failed to remove. The plaintiff’s suit seeking compensatory damages for her personal injuries proceeded to a jury trial.
During the trial, the defendant sought to impeach the defendant’s credibility by introducing evidence of a past criminal court conviction, but the trial court precluded it from doing so. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff’s accident was her own fault, or at least partially so. The jury rejected this condition and entered a verdict finding that the defendant was 100% at fault. The trial court entered judgment upon this verdict, and decedent appealed.
Holding of the Court on Appeal
The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department affirmed the lower court’s order and judgment. While New York law does permit the impeachment of a witness’s credibility through evidence of a prior criminal conviction, the decision as to whether or not to admit such evidence rests firmly within the trial court’s discretion. Under the facts of the case at hand, the trial court was within its broad authority in refusing to admit such evidence in this particular case. In so holding, the court noted that the conviction at issue was some 15 years prior and was for a drug offense.
The reviewing court also affirmed the lower tribunal’s ruling with respect to comparative fault, finding no reason to disturb the jury’s verdict in that regard.
Speak to Counsel About a Slip and Fall Accident
When someone is hurt because of the negligence or careless conduct of a landlord, business operator, or property owner, the injured person has a right to seek fair compensation in a court of law. Such cases can be challenging, however, and it is best to get as early a start as possible so that a proper investigation can be made while the evidence is still fresh. To talk to an experienced New York premises liability lawyer, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, today at 315-479-9000. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, and we can travel to you for an appointment, if necessary.
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